Posted by Michael Kelly, GIY Ireland in Features.

It doesn’t take much for me to start questioning my abilities as a GIYer at this time of the year. I wander around my veggie patch, poking at kale plants with a stick and feeling mightily peeved that there’s nothing much worth eating. And wondering, is there more I could have done? The frustrating thing is that there’s very little we can do to remedy this problem until next month when the first tentative sowings of the year can commence. January is an odd month for the GIYer—with the passing of the new year it feels like we should be doing stuff (and I guess there’s lots of preparatory work we can do), but there’s not really enough light or heat available to encourage seeds to germinate, and so we must wait…

From this juncture—the miserable affair that is January with its depressingly short days and insipid sun—it seems like a long time since the garden was abundant and trips to the supermarket were rare. In times past they had a lovely expression for the interminable length of time between the last of last year’s produce and the first fresh crops of the year—it was called the hungry gap because of course back then people risked actual hunger while they waited. That seems almost a quaint concept now of course—supermarkets have long since made an irrelevance of the seasons and we can buy pretty much whatever produce we want at any time of the year. I guess we should be thankful for that (though of course there’s a whole different argument to be had on the environmental and health impact of eating out of season produce).

These days, when you grow your own food you experience what the hungry gap must have been like (without the actual hunger, thank God). You realise just how fragile life was—how your very existence hinged on your ability to grow well, to store well or on the vagaries of the weather. I magine how difficult a harsh winter (like that which we are currently experiencing) must have been on the GIYer 100 or 500 years ago?

The good news is that each year, as we learn more about GIYing, the hungry gap gets shorter and shorter. As we grow more, our stores of fruit and vegetables last longer and the first fresh produce of the year doesn’t seem so far away.

No doubt this week you are putting some thought in to your New Year’s Resolutions—are any of them GIY related? My GIY resolutions are to grow more fruit and to buy a goat and name her Geraldine (there, I have put it in writing now). The 2011 growing season spreads out before us like a blank canvass—what GIY delights will you paint on yours?

Here’s to a happy, healthy, prosperous and self-sufficient 2011!

For more information, visit GIY Ireland.

Yours in GIY,
Michael Kelly